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You Know You're in France When ...

Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Oct 31, 2006 3:52pm ET

You know you’re in France when under the table next to you, there’s a well-behaved, blond spaniel sitting there, giving you the sad eyes. Sorry pooch—you’re cute (and I love dogs) but this meal is mine. Heck, it took me a full day just to get here!

The bistro at Pic in Valence was renovated earlier this year. It now has a very modern decor with blue-gray slate set off by red chairs and cushions. I do miss the old, classic Provençal look, but the food hasn’t changed. My civet de biche was delicious—rich and earthy, but very refined as well. A perfect match with a half-bottle of ’04 Crozes-Hermitage from Graillot.

My appetizer was a delightful bowl of sautéed ceps. They were both fleshy and firm, sweet and earthy—a trick that only fresh, wild mushrooms can pull off. We should probably call it a ‘cep meter' for this trip, and start moving the needle upward.

I tasted about 100 wines today—Voge in Cornas and then Ferraton and Chapoutier in Hermitage. The 2005s are shaping up very nicely. They feature very, very supple yet substantial tannins along with racy, pure fruit. The whites are also vibrant and pure. Start saving your money, since the dollar continues to hang at 1.28 euros ... that's a scary thought for this Halloween.

Interestingly, some of the '06s have finished malo (though many haven’t), which is almost unheard of for so soon after harvest. It’s been unseasonably warm here since the picking ended, and so some cuvées have kick-started their secondary fermentations, giving me an unexpected sneak peek at this vintage in its infancy.

Tomorrow I attack Cornas and Hermitage again ...

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